It was one of those rare Summer days in NYC when the weather couldn’t get any better, and it was perfect for the Liberty Challenge, hosted by NY Outrigger. From the Hudson to the East River, where I was stationed, back to the Hudson, people came out to watch this event, on sailboats, tour ships, and all along the shores. (Click photos to enlarge.) As I was watching the ever-changing panorama before me, I couldn’t help remembering another famous chase that took place right here in these same waters not long after the Island went from the Dutch to the English. It is written with all the nautical drama that one could hope for by the noted NY writer, James Fenimore Cooper, in his novel published in 1830, The Water Witch or The Skimmer of the Seas. While the 2 ships that Cooper writes of are quite different than the craft in the Liberty Challenge, the emotion that both made for in people had a lot in common. I’m grateful to have learned from Eli Siegel that Cooper was one of America’s greatest writers, and one
“…of the thirty or so great writers of the world of all time… One of the words for Cooper in the history of the art of literature, is indispensable … he is on the side of those matters which it is still permissible to call creation and beauty.” (TRO, #740).
Whenever beauty occurs, I learned from Aesthetic Realism, opposites are made one, the same opposites that we are trying to see better in ourselves. It’s in this principle of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other; each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”
I believe the Liberty Challenge event had beauty in it. I was affected by how the crews of one craft after another maneuvered their way along a course that has fast and dangerous currents with great motion & energy, while also showing ease as they seemed to pause or rest to avoid many other craft like tour boats and barges that were all about. I was both thrilled and composed as I looked on with excitement. As Cooper writes about the pursuit of one ship trying to overtake another, words that have stirred people for nearly 184 years, we too are affected by how the opposites of energy & rest are so much of one another—many oars acting as one.
“We must pull for our own safety, and that of the brigantine, my men;” said the Skimmer, springing into his boat and seizing the tiller—”A quick stroke, and a strong!–here is no time for holiday feathering, or your man-of-war jerk! Give way, boys; give way, with a will, and together!”
These were sounds that had often saluted the ears of men engaged in the hazardous pursuit of his crew. The oars fell into the water at the same moment, and, quick as thought, the light bark was in the strength of the current. (Chapter XXVIII)
Both the Liberty Challenge and the work of James Fenimore Cooper enabled me to see more meaning and have more feeling about the world on a beautiful summer day.